Love, Laughter, and Life

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Happy Book Birthday: Elephant Ears by Fanya Randall

Elephant Ears

Written by Fanya Randall

Illustrated by Alejandro Echavez

November 3, 2020; Mascot Books

Coming soon! Happy Book Birthday to Elephant Ears, written by Fanya Randall, illustrated by Alejandro Echavez! Thank you, Mascot Books http://mascotbooks.com for sending me a copy to review.

Going to school is fraught with all sorts of anxiety and social issues (especially in 2020). A significant part of going to school is learning to navigate in groups of people = social skills. Academics feature in as well. But this book is about bullying, a huge issue nearly any place we go, whether in-person or online.

Max was super excited to begin kindergarten. Mom dropped him off at school, and he was ready to go, new backpack, clothes, and all. What Max was not prepared for was meeting the class bully, who called out attention to Max’s larger than normal ears. Billy continued bullying Max and shouting out, “Max has elephant ears.”

The situation escalates, but I don’t want to ruin the ending, which is perfectly satisfying. Many examples of appropriate behavior are portrayed through other characters. In the end, what we hope would happen in all bullying situations happens. While we cannot expect perfect endings all the time, this book is just right for laying groundwork on how to deal with bullies.

I really enjoyed reading Elephant Ears and came away with good ideas of how to encourage young readers how to avoid becoming a bully, how to help a bully, and how to help someone is being bullied.

What I Liked About This Book:

~ the topic of bullying is relevant and very important

~ the age of the characters is when bullying sometimes begins-kindergarten

~ characters were in place to reflect someone being bullied, a friend who struggled with how to help, and the bully

~ sound examples and story of a bullying incident

~ great story

~ perfect illustrations to go with the story

Amazon Blurb:

Max is starting kindergarten and is excited for his first day of school. On the playground, a bully starts to tease Max about his ears making him feel sad. Will Max get enough courage to speak up for himself to the bully, and will his classmates help him?

This book teaches children about bullying and the importance of how to properly handle a bully situation. Through early education our hope is that it will change the narrative where bullying statistics will decrease and children will learn to be more empathetic and inclusive to all.


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Author Interview: Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten by Laura Purdie Salas (Two Lions)

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Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten

Written by Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

Two Lions (August 2020)

 

Oh, such adorable characters! I’m a cat fan, but cute little Clover takes kitties to a new level. I truly enjoyed reading Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten, to myself and my grands (even the soon-to-be 6th grader was secretly listening). If you have a kitty, I mean child, beginning kittygarten this fall, however that looks in your town, reading this picture book will be the perfect activity to begin exploring and discussing all of the changes and anxieties of a new school experience.

I’m pleased to welcome Laura Purdie Salas, author of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten. After reading her new book, I reached out to Laura and invited her to visit my blog. Thank you for stopping by Laura! Happy book birthday!

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  1. Welcome, Laura! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a former English teacher and copyeditor who’s been writing book for kids for (gulp) 20 years. Poetry and nonfiction mostly, but I have lots of stories inside, too. CLOVER’s my first pure fiction picture book! I’m also a game player, donut lover, and eager learner, and I love to walk and work at my treadmill desk.

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  1. What was your inspiration for Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten?

I listened to the All the Wonders podcast where Matthew Winner interviewed Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant about their book, I Am (Not) Scared, several years ago. I wondered what was the most unlikely fear a child could have. Puppies! That’s what I thought of. Those morphed into kitties eventually—equally unscary!

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  1. What was the writing journey you took as you wrote Clover Kitty?

I had to justify a character being afraid of puppies or kitties. Over the course of a year and a dozen or so drafts, I tried out many different conflicts and character traits for Clover. Was she anxious? Just used to doing things her own way? Strongly introverted? I learned a bit more about Clover with each draft, and eventually this evolved into a back-to-school story, and Clover became a kitty who experiences sensory overwhelm. So Clover sees a bunch of kitties on the playground at recess, for instance, as “a squealing tornado of fangs and fur.” As someone who is not great at making friends myself, and who also finds crowds overwhelming, I definitely see a bit of myself in Clover.

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Donavyn and Autumn ready to read about Clover!

  1. How have you celebrated the release (August 1, 2020) of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten?

Oh, boy. It’s a rough year to release a book, isn’t it? In-person events were all canceled, of course. I did a virtual readaloud to some lovely kids through Gigi’s Playhouse (https://gigisplayhouse.org/gigisathome/), but that’s about it in real time. I devoted a bit of extra energy to making some printables to help teachers and families during this nerve-wracking back-to-school time. I’ve got puppets and activity sheets and a school countdown calendar—lots of things to celebrate friends and help kids think about what tools THEY need to make their back-to-school experience a great one! Or at least one with more ups than downs! And there’s been a super blog tour, which I’ve been so grateful for. I have links and excerpts on my site, along with all those printables, at https://laurasalas.com/clover/.

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  1. Surprise us. What else would you like to share?

I’m learning that anxiety is something that can strike anytime. I’m usually upbeat and very practical. With the state of the world right now, however, author visits, book sales, book acquisitions—they are all taking a hard hit. Honestly, I’m worried about my writing career. So I’m gathering my own survival gear. I may not need earmuffs or sunglasses like Clover, but I’m digging deep to find the tools I can use to keep moving forward and making picture books—my favorite thing in the whole world.

Thank so much, Laura, for sharing your journey and your imagination in the form of Clover Kitty!

Here’s how to get in touch with Laura. Check it out – a Clover Kitty page with fun stuff!

  • site: com
  • Clover Kitty page with lots of downloadables: com/clover
  • order signed, personalized copies of the book through Red Balloon: com/clover
  • blog: com/blog
  • Twitter: @LauraPSalas
  • Instagram: LauraPSalas
  • E-letter for educators: com/p5q54g8
  • Patreon (for children’s writers): com/LauraPurdieSalas

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Author Interview: Kindergarten Hat by Janet Lawler (little bee books)

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Kindergarten Hat

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Geraldine Rodriquez

little bee books, 2020

 

Happy book birthday to Kindergarten Hat (June 9, 2020)! As a former kindergarten and preschool teacher, I love any book that helps young students conquer their anxiety and make that leap into going to school. I enjoyed reading about Carlos, his mother, and his new teacher with the giant hat! Janet Lawler is spot on with this lovely, colorful book.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Janet! Don’t forget, everyone, to help Janet celebrate her delayed book birthday on Tuesday, July 28, at 10 AM (Connecticut time). See more info below and mark your calendar.

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Without further delay, here’s Janet!

Welcome, Janet! Tell us a little about yourself.

I started writing picture books as a second career after practicing law for more than a decade. Both careers require that you communicate clearly and simply. But writing for children is a joyful passion that gives me deep satisfaction and peace. I love how words make music, and I marvel at the way illustrators add detail and layers to my stories. Each book is a new adventure! I have had over twenty-five books published and have several more in the pipeline.

What was your inspiration for KINDERGARTEN HAT?

My son and daughter had the same terrific kindergarten teacher, 9 years apart, at our neighborhood grammar school. Judy Baccei always wore a huge flowered hat on the first day, so her students could find her easily. That hat inspired my story.

What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book?

 My writing journey for this story started over thirteen years ago! I went through many revisions before starting to submit the story to various publishers. I did some submissions on my own and more than once put the manuscript in the “back drawer” as I worked on other stories.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines was acquired by Brett Duquette at Sterling in 2017. Brett and I really connected throughout the editing process. So I asked my agent to submit KINDERGARTEN HAT to Brett after he’d moved to Little Bee. After one round of pre-acquisition editing, to add depth to Carlos’s emotional journey, the manuscript was acquired. Thereafter, I did another round of revisions, as well as several additional “tweaks” to get the story just right.

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how did you celebrate the book birthday of KINDERGARTEN HAT?

The pandemic certainly changed my plans for promoting this book! I had planned for a large launch event on May 30th that was canceled. I did a book birthday posting on my Facebook page, and both my publisher and my agency spread the word via Twitter and Instagram. I e-mailed and messaged indie bookstores and friends, fans, and family all over the country. I have recorded a virtual story time that will post live on the Kids Place of the Farmington CT Public Library on Tuesday, July 28 at 10 a.m. That will be my delayed “book birthday” launch! Anyone can visit that day or thereafter, to hear more detail about the book and listen to my full reading of the story. https://www.facebook.com/flkidsplace/

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I have had a 2nd book released this summer—Good Night, Little Engine. , The classic tale by Watty Piper, The Little Engine That Could, celebrates its 90th Anniversary in 2020!  Grosset & Dunlap asked me to write a rhyming bedtime story as part of the celebration. Good Night, Little Engine is beautifully illustrated by Jill Howarth. I hope that both KINDERGARTEN HAT and Good Night, Little Engine will help comfort and encourage kids during uncertain times.

Congratulations, Janet! I look forward to reading more of your books!

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Amazon Blurb:

A practically perfect first-experience story, especially for anxious hearts and gentle spirits.” Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Carlos Abredo is scared to start kindergarten, but a special teacher with an amazing hat helps give him the confidence to start the school year with a smile.

Carlos Abredo loves building forts, playing soccer, vrooming cars, and gardening. But after moving to a new town, he’s nervous to start his first day of kindergarten. What if the bus gets lost? What if he can’t make friends? What if he can’t find his teacher?! Starting school can be intimidating for anyone, but when you’re also the new kid, it can be downright scary.

When Carlos gets a letter from his new teacher, he starts to feel a little better. He picks out a gift for her, and after a much-needed hug from Mom, he sets off for his first day. But when his present is accidentally ruined, will Carlos be able to salvage his first day of school?

From Janet:

Carlos is new to town and his anxieties grow as he prepares for the first day of school and travels on the bus with a special flower for his teacher’s hat. This floral take on the starting-school theme was inspired by Janet’s son and daughter’s wonderful kindergarten teacher. She always wore a huge flowered hat on the first day, so that kids coming off the buses could find her.
It is likely that little ones starting school this fall following the corona virus crisis may be struggling with messy feelings and worries. Hopefully, the humor and heart of KINDERGARTEN HAT will make them feel less alone and help each of them start their first day with a great big kindergarten smile.


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Book Report: Goodbye Kindergarten by Andrea Williams #BookBirthday

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Goodbye Kindergarten

Written by Andrea Williams

Illustrated by Vanessa Alexandre

Mascot Books; May 5, 2020

 

Coming soon! Happy May 5 Book Birthday!

Thank you, Andrea Williams, for writing this book. Thank you, Mascot Books, for sending a review copy of Goodbye Kindergarten.

What a year we are having! As some people say, the 4th year of April . . .Be sure to read to the bottom of the post for some ideas on ways to add closure to this school year.

Just in time for helping unsettled and disappointed young readers, Andrea Williams has her Goodbye Kindergarten book arriving on the book scene.

Andrea Williams decided to write a book for her kindergartners with the goals of saying goodbye, reminding the students of all the great things they did during the year, and giving students an opportunity to say goodbye and transition to the next grade.

Instead of being full of tears, Goodbye Kindergarten is uplifting as it reminds readers of what they learned, the friends they made, and the fun they had. Most of all, students are reminded that teachers are proud of them and they will never forget their students.

With this odd year of school, most schools have already closed for the remainder of the school year. Students are learning at home. This could be a fun time for young students, or a time of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. At least in our district, our students did not even get a chance to say goodbye to their teachers, classmates, and classrooms. On a Friday, they learned school was closing. By the end of the weekend, they couldn’t even return except to pick up a packet, personal items, and a Chrome book. Shortly after, it was announced that school (as they used to know it) was over for the year.

Saying goodbye is an important step in adjusting to change. Goodbye Kindergarten will help kindergarten students (and preschool students, as they do some of the same activities) remember the good times and talk about what comes next. Goodbye Kindergarten will remind readers that even though classrooms are virtual, their teachers and friends remember them.

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What I Like About This Book:

~ the sharing of normal kindergarten activities

~ the remembering of all the things kindergartners do throughout the year

~ the joy and sense of accomplishment by both students and teacher

~ the opportunity to acknowledge the upcoming changes and the ending of kindergarten

~ the simple text, reminiscent of Goodnight Moon

~ the colorful illustrations

 

Amazon Blurb:

Kindergarten has been full of fun and learning, but the school year is almost done. Its time to say goodbye to your teacher and friends. No need to be sad! Celebrate the special people, places, and things in your classroom, and all the knowledge you’ll take with you into first grade!

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Some Ways to Add Closure to the School Year:

~ complete school work given by teachers; this will help your student feel the sense of accomplishment

~ celebrate the last day of school with a special breakfast, last day of school pictures, a walk down memory lane of favorite school memories (both at school and at home)

~ draw pictures of favorite school memories, or as you finish the school year, help your child journal about things he or she remembers (they draw, you help them write, or take dictation)

~ print photos you’ve taken during the school year (parties, field trips, classroom visits); let your child add them to a small photo album; label pictures with names and locations

~ ask the teacher to plan a virtual meet and greet (Zoom is quite popular for this); the last day of school would be a perfect time, though multiple visits would be great as well

~ call your child’s teacher and let your child visit

~ video your child doing something new and share the video with your child’s teacher; my daughter-in-law did a live video of my grandson riding a bike (without training wheels!), which was something new he learned. This was quite exciting for him! Having the teacher celebrate was a treat.

~ contact the parents of your child’s friends; arrange for them to have a virtual play date by using a computer app; they could work puzzles at the same time, draw a picture at the same time, share a favorite book, or eat a snack together (yet apart!)

~ revisit first day of school pictures; encourage your student to remember how he or she felt on that day; compare how he or she feels now

~ use technology to your advantage. If your child’s classroom used an app for keeping in touch (our preschoolers used Bloomz), reach out and contact families. I shared a picture of my two preschoolers (grands) on this app. Soon enough, most parents had shared pictures of the rest of the classmates. I shared these with my grands.

~ birthdays? Our granddaughter will turn 4 next week. Her mother has arranged a drive-by and wave birthday party.

Do you have any other great ideas? I’m sure we’d all love new ideas. Share them in the comments. Thanks!


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Throwback Thursday: Kindergarten in the 60s

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I remember living in Cle Elum the same year I attended kindergarten, 1966-67.

Kindergarten. This monumental first year of school was so much different in the 60s than in the here and now. In fact, many students didn’t even attend kinder, but started school when they were old enough for first grade.

Kindergarten in Cle Elum? Mandatory dresses for girls, must be able to tie shoe laces, and had to be 5 before school started. I must have been fine for tying my laces, since I remember wearing saddle ox shoes. Which (I just googled) was the common name for saddle oxford shoes quite popular at the time. I always thought they were called saddle LOCKS. Haha. Celebrating my birthday in November placed me among the oldest in my class.

I loved kindergarten. We had art, easel painting, music, recess, lunch, NAP time, stories, play time, and so many other fun activities. I remember my mother telling me that my teacher put me at a table full of noisy boys, hoping that I would calm them down. What she probably meant was that I was bossy and would tell them to be quiet. I’m sure I did. Tell them to be quiet. My oldest kid personality came out shining.

If you are familiar with Cle Elum, you know that it is a small town near Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state. We had winter. The type of winter where snow fell, temps were frigid, and everyone knew winter had arrived. We used to live in a two story home. I distinctly remember the year when so much snow fell, we had snow mountains piled high around our house. It became a game to jump out a second story window, land in the snow, follow the tunnel back to the door, run up the steps, and jump out again. Never fear, adults were involved in this seasonal sport. Honestly. I am not making this stuff up.

Also. The “girls must wear dresses” rule. My mom finally got so tired of me standing at the bus stop shivering and freezing that she sent me to school wearing, hold on tight now, pants! She was really stepping out and being rebellious. But she also wasn’t about to let her little girl get frostbite while wearing a cute dress with tights.

I’m pretty sure the above picture was taken in our backyard in Cle Elum. That is me on the left and my brother on the right. We loved playing on that swing set. Our family did so many fun activities when we lived in the mountains. We camped, explored, visited family and friends, climbed mountains, and spent time beside rivers. The northwest became our big backyard.

I remember another funny story about our time in Cle Elum. Mom could hear my brother and I giggling and the toilet flushing repeatedly. She quickly ran into the bathroom and we were entertaining a guest raccoon. Apparently we had let it in, or it had invited itself in. I have no idea how we discovered its love of running water, but the flushing toilet was a perfect play area. My poor mother!

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Learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels also happened during my Cle Elum and kindergarten years. I was so proud! Good thing there wasn’t a car parked in front of me when my dad was taking this picture!

What do you remember about kindergarten? Were you a paste taster? I still remember the smell and the urge to sample, though I don’t remember eating any. Share a favorite kinder memory. Let’s compare notes.


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The Mud Recipe

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“Dark chocolate looks like poop.”

So said Donavyn after I gave him some acai chocolate treats. “It looks like mud. Not dirt, but mud and water.”

“How do you make mud?” I asked.

“You take some dirt and mix some water.”

Ever the teacher of different genres of literature, “So what’s the recipe for mud?”

Compliments of a 5-year-old, here is Donavyn’s recipe for mud.

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How to Make Mud

Step 1: Get some dirt.

Step 2: Add some water.

Step 3: Mix it up. Now you have mud.

Everyone needs this recipe. Go outside. Play in the mud.